Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How to Travel Affordably

I have heard many people mention over the years that they can't afford to travel. In some cases, this may truly be the case, but I think a lot of the time, people are going about traveling all wrong! 
The short answer to the "how to afford to travel" dilemma would probably be something along the lines of: you invest in what's important to you. Our family has decided traveling is something that is really important to us. Do we spend more than some people would think is reasonable on travel each year? Maybe. But many others may think we do it affordably. I have learned a lot of tips and tricks on how to get the most bang for your buck when traveling, and I hope you find some of them helpful! 
1. Travel in the off season
I know for some people this isn't possible due to work or school obligations, but if you can make it work, it really does save a ton. And a lot of the time, the "off season" really isn't that off. For example, we went to Hilton Head Island in May. It was 80-90 degrees the whole time we were there. Perfect beach weather, but at off season prices. We also found flights to Utah in September for several hundred less a person than in the following months (ski season). 

2. Drive instead of flying
This one is obvious, but driving over flying usually saves a ton of money. Not always, depending on how many people you have, where you're going, etc. For a family of 6 like ours, flying is rare. It's just not worth it to us to spend $1500-$3000 more to save a few hours. We save it for the really far destinations, or when we get great prices on flights.
3. Fly out of bigger airports
When we do fly, we often check other airports within 4 hours of us. We have a smaller local airport that can be expensive to fly in and out of, so sometimes it makes more sense to drive 2-4 hours to a huge hub like Chicago, St. Louis, etc. and fly out of there. 

4. Fly smaller airlines
We typically find the best prices on flights through the smaller airlines like Frontier, Allegiant, Southwest or Spirit. We are currently looking at $115 round trip tickets through Spirit. My mom often finds deals on Frontier for less than $100 each way. 
5. Don't stay in hotels
Hotels are increasingly becoming an unaffordable option while traveling. Sometimes there's no way around it, but almost everywhere you go, you can find some type of rental for a way cheaper rate. For our family, staying in hotels usually just doesn't make sense. Our kids need space to move around, and most hotel rooms have a max capacity of 4 people. So, we either need to get 2 hotel rooms or some type of suite. We can usually find a rental for 1/2 the price of doing that, plus then we have access to a kitchen, which saves us a lot of money on food while traveling. Our favorite places to look for vacation rentals are VRBO and Airbnb.

6. Travel during the week
If you can avoid weekend travel, rates are usually cheaper for lodging, flights, and sometimes even certain activities. My husband doesn't get very much vacation, so this is always a tricky one for us, but when we can, we try to avoid weekend travel. 

7. Buy a vacation package
Depending on what type of vacation you want to take, there may be packages available that can be really affordable! I have never used them, but I have looked at a lot of the vacation packages from Costco, and they have some really good deals! I have also heard really good things about Gate 1.
8. Choose one meal per day to eat out
Again, because of the size of our family, eating out for 3 meals a day while we're traveling would be $$$! We generally choose one meal per day to eat out (usually dinner) and then just do an easy breakfast most of the time, and the other meal in our rental. We keep it simple so we don't have to do a lot of cooking on vacation, but this saves us hundreds of dollars each trip. With the size of our family, when we go out to eat on vacation, it can be anywhere from $50-$100+ per meal. So if we're eating out 3 times a day that could be $150-$300 per day! Doing easy meals in the condo can save us well over $100 per day of vacation. 

9. Check for activity deals on discount sites
Using sites like Groupon are always helpful when checking for things to do at your destination. Just doing a google search of affordable activities helps, too! When we went to San Diego a couple years ago, through our search we found out about the Go card which got us into probably hundreds of places! Of course, we couldn't go everywhere, but the cost of the card would have been about the same as just going to 2 of the places we wanted to go, so it was a great deal for us! 

What other tips do you have for traveling affordably? I really believe it can be done, whether you're taking a short road trip, or going international. You just have to look for the right deals and maybe be a little bit flexible on some things! 
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